Striving for Professional Development in Your Career

Monday, July 30, 2018

I’ve posted on this blog before about having to tackle some new things this year in my professional career, as I took a full-time job in marketing for a non-profit company. First, I was excited, because I’ve always loved theatre, especially musical theatre. Then I became overwhelmed, because I’m one of two full-time employees and basically operate as a one-woman marketing and development team. In the spring, I became determined to focus on how to better myself in my position, even as I stumble along the way, because I know I have the smarts and motivation to succeed at whatever I put my heart in. (Think positive!)

I started off by listening to motivational podcasts while I’m in the car and exercising. I know I’m weakest at sales and development, so I try to listen to episodes that target that weakness and make me excited about prospects. I didn’t know a lot about graphic design, but I’m trying to watch tutorials about different Photoshop techniques and am looking into finding a local class I can take. This past weekend, I attended a local theatre conference and was asked to present on a panel about marketing tips for theatres. I’ll be honest, I felt like a fraud when I accepted the invitation. “They’re only asking me to be on the panel because I’m a woman, and every speaker and panelist this year on the conference is a woman to align with the theme of lifting up and empowering women in the performing arts,” I told myself.

Then I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to learn. I attended the keynote speech and a presentation by another all-female theatre group on their evolution. This morning, I sat on the panel, and while I did offer a few tips on how our company markets shows, I learned a great deal and am now armed and ready to head to the office tomorrow with fresh new ideas for marketing, design templates, photography and videography and project management systems.

This job has helped me be more productive in my own writing. Because I only have a set amount of hours per week for creative writing, I have to be intentional with my time. I’ve also been seeking out online classes I can take to help me in areas where I feel my writing is weakest. And I’m researching what writing conference I would like to attend in 2019 am including it in my own personal development plan. (I’m eyeing a novel-writing conference in California, but there are so many out there to choose from!) It will be pricey with conference registration, plane ticket, hotel, etc. but that's why I'm going to target in on one now and start putting money aside for it.

So if you haven’t taken the steps in creating your own professional development plan, I highly encourage you to do so! It doesn’t have to be expensive—you can attend a conference within driving distance or take one of WOW’s affordable classes, but make yourself a priority. Your writing and your mental health will thank you.

What have you done to enrich your life as a writer? Have you taken a class, workshop, internship, or attended a conference? I'd love to hear about your own experiences!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a non-profit theatre company. Her short fiction has received accolades in both the thriller, young adult and flash fiction categories and she is in the process of revising two contemporary young adult novels. Learn more about Renee at
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Write the book!

Sunday, July 29, 2018
Have you ever been given advice about creating a best-seller? I searched online for writing advice that covered lots of steps, tips, strategies and formulas. Here's a three-step plan that summarized what I found:

Step 1) Write award-winning Book
Step 2) Win Pulitzer Prize
Step 3) Go to bank, cash check, move to Hawaii

Done, done, and done! Sounds easy, right? Well, it's not. There's a difference between writing a good book and selling a book. Some of the effort may certainly overlap, and every step requires a lot of work. I am not trying to diminish the effectiveness a good marketing plan can have, but recognize the two are not the same. Marketing is necessary to sell books, but if you don’t have a good product, the best marketing plan won’t help you in the long run. Focus on the writing.

Business owners, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs all deal with the problem of creating a product and finding a market, just like writers. The failure rate is incredibly high. So how many book failures are there? Too many to count, which means marketing is necessary, but writing a good book is essential.

When writing is ALL about selling, you lose sight of being a writer or author. A marketing consultant told me during a writer's conference that I could make $100,000 a year. She probably said the same thing to a dozen other writers that weekend. She hadn’t read my book, and saw it as a product that she can persuade people to purchase by implementing a marketing plan. I envisioned charts and graphs and spreadsheets.

There is nothing wrong with marketing, but, our goals were different. So, if asked how to write a best-selling book, my advice would look more like this:

Step 1): Write a book
     A. Write your bio
Step 2): Keep writing your book
     A. Start (or contribute to) a blog or other publications
Step 3): Write more of your book
     A. Develop a pitch
Step 4): Finish writing your book
     A. Build a website
Step 5): Edit your book
     A. Create a media kit, send it out

Writing a book is not just a step in a marketing plan. Writing a book is the plan!

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches college communications classes online and on-campus.
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Friday Speak Out!: Critique Sitting and Self-Care

Friday, July 27, 2018
by Savannah Hendricks

A trending topic via hashtags (octothorp) on social media is #selfcare and #selflove. I’ve even used those tags, but fell flat in my own outcome.

In many households, even in the changing times, women often have the responsibility of caring for the children, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining a career.

How do women juggle all this and find time to write, let alone time for self-care? They stand-up for their time! And you can too!

But wait! What if you are a single parent or don’t have extra funds for a babysitter? Ladies, I have a plan for you!

If you have a local critique group, suggest a babysitting critique swap.

Swap the kids and the manuscript writing time or critique time between two people. Or, have a rotating critique-sitter each month where you take all the kids and rotate critique-sitters each time.

Have a play-date at a park with a seating area for the group to mingle and talk critique while the kids play nearby.

Maybe your critique group is online and you are not able to critique-sit-swap. Take your kids to the playground or play area in town where they can make friends or meet up with friends and family while you write. Even if you are experiencing writer’s block, being out in nature can help you brainstorm. If you live somewhere that’s hot in the summer (like I do in Phoenix), try a local McDonald’s/Chick-Fil-A/Carl’s Junior and or (even better choice) search for restaurants with play areas on Yelp. Many communities have kid events for free that will even allow you to leave your kids for a few hours and supervise them.

Now back to self-care. This is vital for all writers, especially woman writers who wear so many different hats in life. You know when the kids finally go to bed, or finally get along with each other and you have some time to write, but all you want to do is relax for FIVE MINUTES!!!


Don’t feel guilt about taking time away from writing to make yourself whole and rested. Yes, I know you must write. I know you need to write. Yet, how well do you write when you are thinking about how tired you are? Have you ever had that extra glass of wine while writing, and then read what you wrote in the morning….same thing happens when you are overtired and try to write.

So, find a critique-sitting group, make one or present it to your current group. Find community places that work best for your kids and your writing. And for goodness sakes, take a time for you so your story can be its very best.

* * *
Savannah Hendricks is the author of Nonnie and I (Xist Pub., 2014) available in English, Spanish & bilingual editions. She holds a Master’s in Criminal Justice, & a degree in Early Childhood Education. You can learn more, including a list of publications, by visiting her blog at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Sioux Without Pants?

Thursday, July 26, 2018
I'm a pantser. I usually write by the seat of my pants, rather than being a planner. Never (and this is no exaggeration) have I ever planned or outlined a writing piece.

And it's served me well.

Going without pants has worked for Daisy Duck for decades.

Until recently...

Probably I should provide some background information, so everyone doesn't run out and get a WWSD bracelet as they constantly wonder What would Sioux do? because these days, I usually write creative nonfiction pieces that are 800-1,200 words long. Those projects--from my perspective--don't need to be outlined. Simply relying on my muse works. Just recently I've started dabbling in essay-writing, and I'm using what I call the "spackle" method. Where there are holes, I fill 'em in.

Is the essay lacking statistics or data? I'll find some.
Is the essay dry or heartless? I'll slip in some personal anecdotal stuff.
Is the essay too linear? I'll insert some factual digressions.

However, a middle-grades novel that's 40,000-50,000 words long is way different than an essay or a short memoir piece. After hiring an editor (Margo is a shining gem, in my opinion. Do they get any better? I don't think so), I've resigned myself to the fact that I must do some sort of outlining/organizing. Writing by the seat of my pants didn't work. Using my normal methods, my manuscript ended up being a boring mess. I managed to write about a massacre... and my story lacked tension and excitement (which required supreme talent ;).

So, I've set out to find something that works for me. Outlining with roman numerals and capital letters? No way. That ain't me. Using software like Scrivener? I tried it for free during one NaNoWriMo and was immediately flummoxed. I need to find a way to organize my plot that allows for an organic unfolding of events... but also ensures that the various threads run through it and ensures that tension is part of the story.    

Here is one way of mapping out a story--like subway lines--that is visual and weird enough, it just might work for me. I'm working on a historical fiction manuscript. I've got a few threads I'm inserting
developing creating. This map would help me develop an ebb and flow of tension.

However, I really like the binder method (it's # 5 in the article) because I recently found some online maps of the community I'm writing about. Later this summer I'm planning a trip to do some research for the manuscript. I can envision plastic sheet protectors and colorful tabs to help me keep things straight. I can see the maps helping me organize the story because the characters are going to have to navigate through the city as they try to survive.

I can also see the combination of the subway-style story map working with the binder... a hybrid way of organizing. A mash-up of a couple of strategies.

This might work because Sioux may not  is probably not  is definitely not the most organized writer around, but she loves a good mash-up.

How about you? What helps you stay organized when it comes to novel-writing? Hot-messes-of- minds like me want to know...

Sioux Roslawski is a wife, a mom, a grammy, a teacher, a dog rescuer... and a writer. During the summer she reads voraciously and tries not to procrastinate too much when it comes to writing. (Sometimes the procrastination wins and sometimes Sioux does.) If you're a glutton for the above stuff, check out her blog.

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Interview with Tal Valante, Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Today we are here to talk with author Tal Valante about her story "Statistics."  Tal is one of the runners up of the Winter 2018 Flash Fiction contest.

Take the time to read Tal’s story, “Statistics,” before continuing on to her bio and her interview.

Tal’s bio:

Tal Valante loves literature that packs a punch, whether she’s on the receiving or the delivering end. An avid reader and a slow writer since childhood, she enjoys crafting complex worlds for her characters and nailing just the right words to make their stories come across.

Besides her literary passion, Tal is a versatile programmer. And when literature meets technology in her workspace, interesting things are born. Tal is currently designing a new website builder made exclusively for writers, to take the frustration out of creating your online presence. Read more about Readership Pro. You’ll love it.

Between programming sprees, writing sessions, and managing a team of three cats, life is never dull. Connect with Tal over at LinkedIn. She’d love to hear from you!

WOW: The common wisdom is that we put a bit of ourselves into each story we write. Where are you to be found in "Statistics"?

Tal: I’m from Israel, and I’ve lived through three wars that I remember (and several wide-scale military operations). During one operation in 2014, in Tel Aviv, I was indeed caught in the open when the air strike sirens sounded. It was blood-curdling. You have nowhere to go and nothing to do except hope that statistics are on your side. Later I learned that on that occasion, a large piece of missile hit the street where I lived, several hundred meters from my apartment.

WOW:  This is such a personal story for you.  How does it illustrate your world view.

Tal: I’m a firm believer that most people want to live and let live. People with personal interests on either side of this confrontation make the vast majority suffer. They teach pointless hate that haunts us generation after generation. I wanted to show that for some people, that hate is not inherent. They can see past it to the common humanity. I’m counting on these people to create a better future for all of us.

WOW: Your character definitely came across as someone who was willing to live and let live. There is so much that you leave out of this story. We don’t know the character’s name or age or what her people and the Arashi are fighting about. How do you decide which details to include?

Tal: I leave out a lot of details because they’re not important. It could be anyone on either side. It’s about two people who are trapped in a battle they never wanted, who happen to meet under a great threat to their lives. All the rest is irrelevant.

WOW: How did this story change throughout the rewrite process?

Tal: I only did one rewrite, to be honest, and the story changed in very subtle ways: weeding out some weak words, choosing slightly different verbs.

WOW: Writing slow definitely works for you. What advice do you have for readers who have never attempted flash fiction?

Tal: Flash fiction is about a few scenes with the power to touch you emotionally. Don’t pack your story with big facts. Pack it with small details, little insights, and sensitive cues. It’s tempting to tell in flash fiction, because telling is faster, and the word limit is super tight. Resist that temptation. Show how the macro lives in each micro moment.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks to Angela & Team for hosting this wonderful event!

WOW:  Thank you, Tal.  It is so hard for me to imagine writing about something so scary and so personal.  Thank you for showing us how to use life to inspire fiction.

Interview by Sue Bradford Edwards.

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Giveaway: Writer's Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing by Kerrie Flanagan

Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Hey writers!

I have some amazing news to share with you (as well as a giveaway)! I had the pleasure of writing the foreword for Kerrie Flanagan’s book, the Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing—a phenomenal writer’s resource that publishes today. I’m so proud and honored to be a part of this project.

I first met Kerrie back in 2009, when she sent a letter of introduction to WOW! Women On Writing that caught my attention. She talked about her passion for helping writers, her 100+ clips, and her experience starting the Northern Colorado Writers (NCW) organization. She wrote about an NCW conference, where she mingled with authors and agents and pitched article ideas for various departments. I wrote her back immediately, and asked her to write her first piece for WOW, which was How to Pitch to an Agent at a Writers’ Conference, an evergreen article that many writers return to time and time again. Over the years, she’s written articles for WOW on a variety of topics—everything from Feng Shui for Writers to How to Craft a Travel Article About Your Hometown. Kerrie’s strength is coming up with creative ideas that I never would have. Her vision inspires mine. Plus, she’s an expert writer, and her writing style is friendly and knowledgeable, as you’ll see in this book!

Angela & Kerrie's book!
I’ve read many books on the craft of freelance writing, and many, many articles; and this is THE BEST book on magazine article writing I’ve ever read. If you are a writer just starting out or have some clips, but want to land better assignments, this book is gold. As someone who’s worked on both sides of the desk, I can tell you that Kerrie’s advice will save you years of learning the hard way.

Kerrie’s chapter on querying will teach you how to pitch editors effectively and land assignments. It should be required reading for freelancers (IMHO)! She also shows you how to come up with ideas, study a magazine (in an ingenious way I haven’t heard of before) and walks you through each step, providing worksheets to help you track a publication’s needs. She chats with amazing writers, like Andrew McCarthy who shares a kernel that will change the way you think about beginning an article. The editor round-ups are priceless. Editors from publications, like The Costco Connection and Condé Nast Traveler, share their best tips. It feels like you’re sitting across from them having coffee.

And that’s not all. Kerrie provides you with the tools to succeed as a freelancer, including practical tips on goal setting, productivity, and awakening your creative muse. There’s also a chapter on writing and selling personal essays that reads like a mini-book. The chapter on writing for online markets highlights the differences between print and online; and finally, there’s a fascinating chapter on using article writing to build a platform. If you are a fiction writer, you will learn how to pull topics from your novel to craft articles that will help you find readers. And that’s what we all ultimately want, right? To find readers. To build our tribe. To share our ideas with the world.

There’s an inspirational quote from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling: “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

Writing and submitting certainly takes nerve, and the possibilities are endless, but courage is not enough. It also takes know-how. That’s what this book can provide. And it’s all in one place! No wading through articles to find all the information you need. It’s nice to have all this fantastic advice in one easy-to-reference package.

To celebrate today’s publication launch, we have a couple of copies to give away. Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a copy of Writer's Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing: A Practical Guide to Selling Your Pitches, Crafting Strong Articles, & Earning More Bylines by Kerrie Flanagan. The giveaway closes Tuesday, July 31 at 12am.

You can also pick up a copy the Writer's Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing at the Writer’s Digest Shop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, IndieBound, and more!

Kerrie Flanagan
This is seriously a dream come true for me. It’s a thrill to have my name on the cover, right underneath my friend colleague, Kerrie Flanagan.

To find out more about Kerrie, please visit You can also connect with her on Twitter @Kerrie_Flanagan, on Facebook @KerrieFlanaganWriter, and on Instagram @kerrie.flanagan.

Thank you, and I totally appreciate your support!

Follow the advice in Kerrie's book and get your words published.

Write on!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon blog tour launch and giveaway

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dear Tom,
I'm back on Anna Maria Island... missing you.
But walking down these beautiful beaches reminds me of us and makes
me feel a little less far away from you. And that encourages me as I am writing our story.
Hopefully this will help other people who are feeling our pain too.
I love and miss you every day, darling.

When he first saw me, Tom said that he would spend the rest of his life with me. To my surprise, he actually did. He was the love of my life. We shared a story that felt like a dream. Every moment was an adventure... and then Tom became ill. As his mysterious symptoms persisted we were hurtled through a maze of fear, tests, doubts and sorrow. But while doctors toyed with diagnoses--Lyme disease, ALS--we filled each day with joy, hope, good food, wine, music and travel. Even when death came to crush our storybook romance, we found that the human spirit is greater than the frailties of the body, greater than suffering and grief.

From the fateful tick bite on Block Island to central nervous system failure, to healing my grief and loss, I stayed afloat, upbeat, and connected to Tom through devotion, true love, and by donning my own special pair of rose-colored glasses.

Paperback:  288 Pages
Publisher:  WiDO Publishing (May 29th 2018)
Genre: Memoir
ISBN-10: 1947966049
ISBN-13: 978-1947966048

Rose Colored Glasses is available for purchase in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.  

Book Giveaway Contest!

To win a copy of Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on July 29th at 12AM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Jo Ann Simon, a corporate executive, is a lifelong nutmegger, living in various locations in the Nutmeg state of Connecticut. She is a constant traveler, exploring the world including her favorite country, Italy. When she is not traveling, Jo Ann loves spending time with her family, friends and her seven grandchildren. Her day job running a company, painting fine art, gardening and writing fill in the blanks of her life. Palm trees are essential in her personal landscape with beaches to match.

Find JoAnn Online:






Instagram: forgetmenotjosi

-----Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you for sharing Rose Colored Glasses with the world and choosing WOW! Women on Writing to help you do that! With a heartfelt memoir, I always find myself wondering: How did you overcome your fears of how others might perceive Rose Colored Glasses?

JoAnn: Writing a Memoir is a humbling process. I had to decide how much of my life, my passions, my loves, my failures, my everything I wanted to put out there. That was a fine line and scary. At first I was being a scaredy cat, holding back and maybe not telling he correct story. That’s when I decided that if I am going to do this, I had to do it right or not do it at all. Once it was launched, I had to hold my breathe to see how people would react to it . . . thank goodness it is all great so afar!

I thought back to the early stages of my art career. I did not want to sell my work because it was precious to me, too precious to share with anyone. Then my art teacher convinced me to show my work in a local art show. My first piece sold. It was a watercolor of a beautiful yellow barn and a red flyer wagon on front of it with beautiful trees spotted with sunshine and shade. It made you think of days gone by and fun as a child. I was ready to let go, and feel how powerful it was to share my work with the world and to receive the appreciation for my work. It is the same with writing. Years later, after many more painting sales, I was in a restaurant and a women said:

“Aren’t you Jo Ann Simon?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Wow! I have one of your paintings. It is so nice to meet you.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, which painting do you have?”
“It is a beautiful painting of a yellow barn with a red wagon. I love it! I have it in my entrance way and see it every day. It makes me smile every day. Thank you so much.”
“I am honored and would like you to know that your painting was my very first sale. It makes me smile too that you enjoy it so much. Thank you very much.”

There is a beautiful power of overcoming fears, and learning that if you share what people need and want, you can hopefully make a difference.

WOW: What an awesome conversation - and so empowering!

What role has your family played in publishing? Who has been your greatest support and how so?

JoAnn: My family is ultra supportive of my endeavors and life challenges, and has always been there for me in so many ways. In my writing, I have a different set of ‘family’ who are my friends and new writing comrades. My friends stick to me like glue through thick and thin, I am the luckiest person in the world to have the friends and family that I do have.

The publishing world is all new to me, and I am immensely enjoying the camaraderie of individuals that I have met along the way, writing groups that I have joined, and the special bond that two writers have with each other, and there are millions of writers. My universe and support system has become the world. It is incredible and heartwarming.

WOW: You're not the first person who has enjoyed this camaraderie - writers are a heartwarming group!

When you first began writing, what were you hoping to gain by sharing your story of loss? How has this changed as the project progressed?

JoAnn: I started writing to not forget every inch of our amazing short time together. We were together for a total 10 years, married for 3 of them. On that drive home from Block Island after Labor Day weekend was when I decided to do this. That weekend really brought everything back to me and allowed me to see outside of my doom and gloom. I wanted to write everything down before I lost it, especially the special times with Tom. When I started writing I had intention of publishing my book. It gave me something productive to do with my free time and the time to think about what I had been through and try to make some sense of it. I didn’t have much time to make sense of anything when I was trying to save a life.

The writing flowed out of me, at the same time the grief and feelings of loneliness seemed to ebb its way out too. I also realized that my positive attitude helped me to survive some of the hardest moments, hours and days in my life. That’s when the thought emerged that maybe if I publish my story as a memoir it might help other people out there going through same or similar circumstances, just like it helped me.

After I completed the writing I realized that I was living in the past for the last 4 years while I wrote my story. It was hard for me to be anywhere else but in the past with my beloved Tom. I know that Tom will always be looking over me, and will give me signs that he is with me, but now I feel that I can and am living in the present and looking forward to the future and the next Chapter of my life. My campaign of wearing Rose Colored Glasses every day figuratively or actually to be positive and make the most of every day is working. That formula has helped me to grow, thrive and live my life again. My objective is to share that with everyone I can touch.

WOW: I love how you describe moving from past to present - such a coming of age. What resources do you recommend to those families trying to navigate their own feelings after losing a loved one?

JoAnn: Everyone has different ways of grieving and finding help, but it is important to have options to work through the pain and loss. I worked through mine by writing staying close to loved ones. Reading stories of loss and how people healed helped me immensely as well. Hospice offered much support with groups that I could join and newsletters with stories of people trying to heal and how they did. There is a significant amount of help out there if you want to find it, with support groups, through your church, hospital, or town/city that you live in.

I also reached out to the ALS Association to try to support them in fundraising to find a cure. That gave me a way to channel my loss into something positive that could help others in the future, and hopefully safe lives. I was part of the Ice Bucket Challenge and organized a recent Hot Pepper Challenge at my company. My article “Some Like it HOT, Some like it COLD has been published. My hope is that many more people will take a challenge to raise funds to find a cure for ALS and then challenge 3 more people to do the same . . . keep it going. This has helped me to know that I am making a difference for Tom.

WOW:  Just last week a friend and her husband received an ALS diagnosis - they are struggling through the 'incurable' part of the disease right now. Her husband and she are determined to wear their own rose colored glasses for the sake of their 5 young children. I hope her story ends differently than yours and a cure is found in time. From their family and the others touched by ALS - thank you for helping fund raise to find a cure.

What’s next for you personally? Professionally?

JoAnn: Right now I’m feeling like I’m on a magic carpet that can take me anywhere. The Launch of my book Rose Colored Glasses has been amazing so far and it’s only been a month. The feedback the book has been extremely positive and wonderful.

I’m very excited about this Blog Tour and am planning a Book Tour to all the locations in the book, which are many, at a minimum.

I have several Radio Station interviews scheduled and articles written and published in different online magazines and websites, which is very exciting to me.

I will continue my day job, but have decided to write my next book, which will be fiction loosely based on my life. It will be about a widow who lost her husband 3 years ago and has not found or wanted to find another love, but she has a yearning to have someone else in her life again. It’s time to open herself up. It’s really scary though, to want to love someone, be loved, make love and have a commitment to someone else, because she could lose that person again and go through everything that she went through before. It’s terrifying, the most terrifying thing to do.

So, the book will go to Italy and have some dalliances. It will have some sex scenes and will make her feel like she could possibly love again. It will make her feel like a person who can be alive again, be wanted and cherished again. It will be a bumpy and funny road. There will be times that silly funny things will happen with men, because she is rusty at this. She might be very demanding because of her now high standards of wha is expected from a man, that could turn everything to be impossible, but that’s the story of it all and that’s the story of not wanting something, but then it happens and the unbelievable happens with you even knowing it. It sneaks up on you and it grabs you. It never ever let’s go, that’s the thing called true love.

WOW: I just knew you'd have something exciting in the works!

What advice do you have for others who may consider sharing something so personal?

JoAnn: My advice is to try to live life forward a little at a time. Healing takes time. You will never be the same person, but you can become a person that lives a full and happy life again. Always keep your loved ones close to your heart, but don’t feel that it is the end of your life. They would want you to carry on and be strong so that they will not worry about you.

There are many things to do:

  • Write about your life together…it helped me immensely and could help you
  • Join a women’s group
  • Join a Book Club and read my book “Rose Colored Glasses”
  • Find a group that is involved with one of your hobbies
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Start exercising or walking
  • Spend more time with family or friends
  • Travel
  • Volunteer
  • Check out your local Meet Up groups

WOW: Those are great suggestions and ideas - thank you!

If Rose Colored Glasses were made into a movie, what song would you choose to compliment the movie and why?

JoAnn: Crystal, that is an easy, but a hard question at the same time. Reason being there are so many songs that would be perfect, that it would be hard to choose one. The movie would have to showcase several songs throughout. Starting with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which Tom plays for me every place I am doing something that he is really happy with me being there at that place or with those people. It doesn’t matter where or when, it is always a special magical surprise that tells me that he is with me. I don’t want to give the story away, but you will read about this in the book in The Epilogue, Paris.

Also, John Lennon’s” In My Life” is also in the book, which says it all about us, his life, and our life together….He loved me more. just beautiful. Also the chapter about a found recording that showcases gorgeous music from the forties. One song “A Dreamers Holiday” personified where Tom was at the point in time.

Climb aboard a butterfly and take off in the breeze
Let your worries flutter by and do the things you please
In the land where dollar bills are falling off the trees
On a dreamer's holiday

Every day for breakfast there's a dish of scrambled stars
And for luncheon you'll be munchin' rainbow candy bars
You'll be livin' a la mode on Jupiter or Mars
On a dreamer's holiday

Make it a long vacation
Time, there is plenty of
You need no reservation
Just bring along the one you love

Help yourself to happiness and sprinkle it with mirth
Close your eyes and concentrate, and dream for all you're worth
You will feel terrific when you get back down to earth
From a dreamer's holiday

Make it a long vacation
Time, there is plenty of
You need no reservation
Just bring along the one you love

Help yourself to happiness and sprinkle it with mirth
Close your eyes and concentrate, and dream for all you're worth
You will feel terrific when you get back down to earth
From a dreamer's holiday

We always had our ritual, which I still do, of Sunday morning coffee, newspapers, and forties music in the background.

One of the amazing things that started happening to me soon after Tom passed was songs playing that seemed like he was talking to me through th music. I have a list that I kept of over 200 songs that had meaning and lifted my spirits when I heard them. At first, it was too hard to hear, but then I realized that he was closer to me than he could ever be and that was heartwarming and caused me to smile and start to accept that he was not on this earth, but he was still with me, and always would be. Music can be a healer, a connection and a lifeline.

WOW: Thank you, Jo Ann! You've been a joy to interview and work with. Please keep in touch and let us know when that next book comes out!

----------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, July 23rd @ The Muffin
Author Interview and Giveaway!

Tuesday, July 24th @ JoAnn Simon
Crystal Casavant-Otto reviews Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon - don't miss this opportunity to learn more about Jo Ann's touching memoir.

Wednesday, July 25th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Wisconsin mother, wife, and autism advocate Michelle DelPonte reviews Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon and shares her thoughts with readers at Bring on Lemons. This is an unforgettable memoir!

Thursday, July 26th @ Beverley Baird
Beverley Baird reviews Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon. This touching memoir is one readers won't soon forget! You'll want to add this one to your #TBRPile today!

Friday, July 27th @ Choices
The readers at Madeline Sharples blog, Choices, are in for a special treat today as Jo Ann Simon pens the guest post "Seeing Art Through the Artist's Eye". Readers can enjoy this post while also learning about Simon's memoir Rose Colored Glasses recently published by WiDO Publishing.

Monday, July 30th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker interview Jo Ann Simon about her recently published memoir Rose Colored Glasses

Tuesday, July 31st @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon and shares her thoughts with readers at World of My Imagination. Don't miss a chance to learn about this memoir of love and loss.

Thursday, August 2nd @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Today's post at Memoir Writer's Journey includes a guest post titled "Simplicity in Life" written by Jo Ann Simon. There is also a link to Kathleen Pooler's review of Simon's recently published memoir Rose Colored Glasses. Readers won't want to miss this opportunity to learn more about Simon and her lovely memoir.

Tuesday, August 7th @ Bring on Lemons
Today's author spotlight at Bring on Lemons is Jo Ann Simon featuring her recently published memoir Rose Colored Glasses. Don't miss a chance to learn about Simon and check out Crystal's review of this touching memoir.

Wednesday, August 8th @ Lisa Haselton
Lisa Haselton interviews Jo Ann Simon about her memoir Rose Colored Glasses (and more)!

Wednesday, August 8th @ Margo Dill
Today's guest author is Jo Ann Simon of Rose Colored Glasses - and today's topic is "A Positive Attitude". Don't miss this blog stop!

Monday, August 13th @ Write Happy
Catherine Brown reviews Rose Colored Glasses a touching memoir by JoAnn Simon.

Monday, August 13th @ Coffee with Lacey
Lacey reviews Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon. Don't miss the opportunity to learn more about this inspirational memoir about love, loss, and hope!

Thursday, August 16th @ Ellen Valladares
Fellow author Ellen Valladares reviews Rose Colored Glasses by JoAnn Simon.

Wednesday, August 22nd @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Fellow memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her thoughts after reading Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon.

Thursday, August 23rd @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Wisconsin educator, mother, and business owner Cathy Hansen reviews the memoir Rose Colored Glasses by Jo Ann Simon.

Keep up with the latest stops by following us on twitter @WOWBlogTour.


Enter to win a copy of Rose Colored Glasses by JoAnn Simon! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway contest closes Sunday, July 29th, at 12am. We will choose a winner the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Three Types of People to Watch Out For In Your Writing Life

Sunday, July 22, 2018
When it's my turn to blog on The Muffin, I usually try to come up with something either funny, positive, inspirational, or instructional. But today, friends, I have a bone to pick with three types of people you could run into in your writing career; and this is a topic that needs to be brought out of the shadows and into the light. So this post comes with a big WARNING sign--maybe even DANGER AHEAD. When you're reading the descriptions below, if the name of someone in your writing life pops into your mind, then you will know to proceed with caution or run away screaming from him or her.
Watch out for these three! :) 

Type 1: The What's-In-It-For-Me Writer
We all know these people exist in our lives--people who won't do anything unless they see a benefit for themselves. It's not that people should be going around spending all their time doing selfless acts, and writing is a business, so you have to make wise decisions. But some writers are extremely self-centered, narcissistic, and un-generous. (I told you, this is not a positive post. SORRY!) Recently I heard a story about two writers who had the same publisher--we will call them Positive Polly and Selfish Sal. Positive Polly was looking for giveaways from writers while promoting her latest book, but also to give some of the other writers at her publishing house a chance to find new readers with free ebook giveaways (a tried and true marketing strategy, especially for series writers).

Selfish Sal jumped at the chance to promote himself, but then he quickly became difficult. He complained that he wasn't getting enough attention and that he never should have gifted anything to Positive Polly for a giveaway. He even went so far as to publicly call out Positive Polly--he said she wasn't doing enough for him when he graciously donated one ebook.

Do you think Positive Polly will ever work with Selfish Sal again? Of course not. She found several other writers who were more than happy to help her out, were easy to work with and considerate, and even thanked her for the opportunity to talk to Polly's readers. The What's-In-It-For-Me Writer will often spend hours complaining and writing some pretty awful emails instead of writing great books.

Type 2: The Harsh Critiquer/Editor
A critique group member or an editor has one job--to help the writer create the best manuscript possible. Yes, this can entail a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions for revisions and cuts. But this can be done WITHOUT insulting the writer or the work and squashing the dreams of a writer. It's a crime (or should be) that there are some editors and critique group members who are so cruel and critical that they make other writers doubt everything about themselves and their talent.

If you ever feel this way after receiving a critique, then get another one. I'm serious! I do a lot of editing and critiquing, and a good edit will be structured like a positive parent/teacher conference for the worst-behaved child in the class--the criticism of the child is sandwiched between positive traits, and it is worded in a way that is helpful to the student, not hurtful. Your manuscript, even the roughest draft, should be treated in this respected way.

Please don't let one harsh critique kill your dreams. Every one of us writers, even best-selling authors, can improve our craft and our storytelling, but there's always something positive in a manuscript to focus on first.

Type 3: The Breaker of Promises 
This person is someone who promises (over and over again) to do something: give you a review, critique your work, show up at your events, share your book on social media, etc, in exchange for you doing something for them also (such as critiquing each other's work or reviewing each other's books). Now, we are all busy, and I have been guilty of taking on too much and being very forgetful; but if someone is doing something for me (critiquing my novel, showing up at my book events, taking my classes), then I make it a priority to return the favor and/or write a heartfelt email of why I can't. (Sometimes, being a single mom creates barriers beyond my control, but then I really try not to make promises I can't keep--still a learning process.)

The worst breaker of promises is in the following example. Let's say, you exchange books with another writer to write reviews for each other (after reading them--real, honest reviews), and you do yours in a timely manner. You wait a good amount of time, because you understand that life is busy, and inquire nicely if the person has had a chance to read your book yet, and you get an answer like: Well, I'm busy.

Well, WHO ISN'T?

There's really nothing you can do about these types of situations except the following: don't trust him or her again!  "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." or "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

A More Positive View
Now I have to end on a positive note. I am a glass half-full kind of gal. There are so many incredibly wonderful, amazing, generous, thoughtful, professional writers, editors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers out in the world whom you will meet. But this writing path you chose is not easy; and if you feel like someone in your writing career is toxic or hurting you or making you doubt yourself, they probably are. If he or she is a friend, try talking to this person first and see if you can work something out. If not, just wish the writer well and move on. If you are looking for some warm people, look no further. WOW!  is full of them--on this blog and on our Facebook page.

Happy writing.

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and WOW! instructor, as well as a writer and freelance editor. You can enroll in her novel writing coach that starts the first Friday of every month by going here. She is also offering  a marketing class starting this fall. Find out more about her at

Clay birds photo by JD Hancock on 
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Why I Started Writing What I Enjoyed Instead of What I Knew

Saturday, July 21, 2018
We all know the advice, "Write what you know." It isn't my favorite piece of advice, although recently I have learned to understand it better. I have learned that it's not just about writing about all those real life moments you have lived through, but it's also about emotions. We've all known sadness, fear, disappointment, love, and so many other emotions that inspire the characters we write and the stories we tell.

But for me lately, even that new level of understanding feels crippling. Whether I try to write what I know or what I feel, lately I just feel stuck. In the midst of an extremely stressful time, I prefer to escape into writing and frankly, writing from those raw places sometimes hurts.

I've started approaching my writing in a completely different way these days. Instead of writing what I know or what I feel, I'm writing what I enjoy.  I'm finally smiling as I write. I'm laughing to myself as I write out the scenes. This has made writing fun again. I feel like I'm a kid playing pretend all over again.

Will this story get published? Who knows. I'm not even thinking about it yet. Honestly, I'm just glad I'm enjoying writing again. Like, really enjoying it.

Have you ever felt stuck in your writing? Maybe you are beginning to hate that novel you are working on, or the article you are trying to piece together, or that short story that can't seem to get an ending. If that sounds like you, put that piece of writing aside. For now, write something you enjoy. You may not figure out what that is yet, but I encourage you to keep looking and trying out new ways to write. Try poetry. Try scriptwriting. Try a memoir. Try something you've never written before. Try something silly or something terrifying. Write what you enjoy. Write what you would want to read.

This approach may not result into a bestselling novel. In fact, it may not be read by anyone but you. Yet, I'm a strong believer that exercising that muscle of enjoying our creative work is just as important as exercising the muscle of discipline that sits us down in the chair. Both go together. Once I've begun to enjoy writing again, maybe I can finally figure out how to apply that age old advice of 'write what you know (or feel)." And who knows? Maybe that story I am enjoying will end up a bestseller after all.

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Friday Speak Out!: Easy Book Marketing for Authors Who Hate Marketing

Friday, July 20, 2018
by Linda Strader

I haven’t met an author yet who loves the marketing aspect of book promotion. Certainly I don’t. I’ve never been particularly outgoing, nor social. Not that I’m a recluse, but I’ve never been one to talk (which in my world means brag) about my accomplishments. Simple compliments throw me, to the point that I often pretend I didn’t hear them.

However, I knew that if I wanted people to know about my book, which I did, I was going to have to get them interested long before it was published. How to do this? I had a Facebook account, but never used it. I didn’t have many friends, and certainly not on Facebook. I needed to meet people beyond the few friends I had. I mean, seriously, how much promotion could a few people help me with? I decided to explore further.

I discovered Facebook Groups. I’d no idea these existed. I decided to join a few that were focused on writing, as well as my other hobbies, including gardening and art. To my surprise, I found people quite sociable and friendly, to which I responded in kind. I never mentioned my book, but once in a while a post would come up that opened the door for me to talk about myself. And what do you know? People were interested to hear about me, my book, my life…which I reciprocated, because it was fun to share.

What I’ve discovered is this: if you want people to buy your book, you need to connect with them on a social level. Sending out a gazillion emails that essentially say “Buy my book!” will not work. Neither will the accumulation of hundreds of email addresses of people you don’t know in order to blast them with book release news. You wouldn’t stop a stranger on the street and whip out a copy of your book saying, “Hey, want to buy my book?” would you? That’s essentially what you are doing.

It took over a year, but I made not only new friends, but important connections that led to guest blog-posts, interviews: written, video, and audio, as well as speaking opportunities, and book signing events. All of these resulted in over 150 pre-orders for my book, and not just in the U.S. New friends and connections from all over the world wanted a copy—all by me simply connecting and being friendly with people I met online.

Never discount the importance of a connection. That one connection might not be interested in your book, but maybe they know of someone who would be. People “share” with others online, and your news is spread even farther. It’s all good. You can do this! I know you can.

* * *
Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a U.S. Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage is her first book, released on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. She is currently working on a prequel.

In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She currently lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

Blog address:
Facebook author page:
Twitter: @desertplantlove
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Themes: Weave Them into a Compelling Story

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Weave themes together to create a compelling story.
Recently I read an article about themes in literature. The author’s advice was to avoid the common and ho hum. Go instead, she said, for the unusual.

Wow. I have to disagree. Themes in and of themselves don’t have to be unique. They are the broad topics that summarize what your story is about. You create a unique story not with a single theme but in how you weave together themes (more than one) with plot and characters.

For example, you might write a book about the theme judgment, not to be confused with justice. Shakespeare wrote about judgment in Hamlet. Harper Lee’s story about judgment, To Kill a Mockingbird, moved the theme from a Danish castle to a Southern town. Pick up the pace and you can write about judgment by penning thrillers like those of Suzanne Brockmann, combining military maneuvers with crime.

Sound too weighty and grim? Not to worry. Women in business is one of the themes in Molly MacRae’s The Highland Bookshop Mystery Series, set in modern Scotland. Women in business is actually a common theme in the mystery genre with women managing bookstores, yarn shops and coffee houses while solving a wide variety of mysteries.

Very few books have only one theme and combining themes in unique ways is one way to make your story feel new. I just finished reading MacRae’s Plaid and Plagiarism. In addition to women in business, other themes include crime doesn’t pay and greed will lead to your downfall.

Take a look at this list of themes:

  • Beauty is only skin deep.
  • Circle of life.
  • Coming of age.
  • Corrupting influence of power.
  • Crime doesn’t pay.
  • Evils of ignorance.
  • Evils of racism.
  • Evils of science/technology.
  • Good vs evil.
  • Greed will lead to your downfall.
  • Heroism.
  • Judgment.
  • Justice.
  • Nature vs civilization.
  • Overcoming the odds.
  • The power of the natural world.
  • Simplicity is best.
  • Unrequited love.
  • Women in business.

Have I missed one of your favorites? Add it in a comment below.

If someone tells you that your theme is too ordinary, the problem probably isn’t the theme itself. Themes after all are what speak to us in a story. They help us know what to expect and frame how we think about it. In a romance, you know that one of the themes will likely be love lost. Most mysteries share the theme that crime doesn’t pay. In young adult novels, coming of age is a popular theme as teen readers struggle to make their way into the adult world. But a single theme isn’t all that a story is about.

The next time a story or novel feels slight, take a good hard look at your manuscript. Are the characters three dimensional? Do you toss complications into the plot? If you’ve done these things, take a look at this list of themes. Does one of them feature in a minor way? Can you make it stronger? Learn to weave together two or three themes to create a piece that is complex enough to hold reader interest.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins September 10th, 2018.
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"They" can't stop you

Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Many of you know I'm a communications instructor as well as a writer. I recently heard another instructor say that early in his career he felt like he wasn't qualified to teach students just a few years younger than he was, and when he got older, he felt like he couldn't relate to them. Now, though, years later, when asked how he felt about those earlier theories and how he relates to his students, he said he doesn't care how they feel because he has something to offer. I love that response, because many writers feel the same way.

When we begin, we may feel like we aren't qualified to call ourselves writers, and after years of work, may feel disconnected from a younger audience. When writers pay attention to the latest blockbuster books and movies, feeling out of touch may be the norm. That probably isn't your audience anyway, and letting others dictate the type of writing you do is a mistake. You have something else to offer.

When you are 20, you worry about what other people think of you. When you are 40, you don't care what other people think of you, and when you are 60, you realize no one was thinking about you anyway. I'm closer to 60 than 40, so am happy to say that putting myself out there isn't as scary as it once was. I don't know if it's because many people I deal with are younger and seem less intimidating, or after having been a writer for so long feel a higher level of confidence. It's probably some of both.

Recently, I realized that in 100 years, the planet will be populated with an (almost) entirely different group of people. Most of us who are here now will not be here then. So, what are we worried about? Is it that "they" may not understand you? To be honest, "they" may not care if you succeed or not. My advice is to stop worrying, because "they" aren't permanent. And "they" shouldn't determine how you perceive your work.

In 100 years, you will have been a writer. And that won't change. You have something to offer. "They" can't stop you.

Mary Horner writes fiction and nonfiction, teaches communications, worries about getting older, but not as much about what others think of her writing.
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Meet Tina Tippett, Runner Up in the Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Tina Tippett makes her living as a legal assistant in a busy law firm just outside of Baltimore. She began jotting poetry in the margins of her schoolwork in elementary school and continued to do so through her career as an English major at the University of Maryland.

A single mom, writing often took a backseat to balancing work and home-schooling her two beautiful daughters. After losing her mother in 2001, she rediscovered the cathartic quality of writing and was able to complete her first novel, Dreams of Mother, the following year. A series of life-changing events brought on a writing hiatus which lasted until 2014. That year, she reached back and self-published Dreams of Mother.

Empty-nested within the last year, she’s discovering the conflicting distress and freedom that come with the territory, and with encouragement from her fiancé, she’s spending some of that extra time reconnecting with her muses. She is enjoying re-honing her skills on flash fiction, short stories and writing lyrics with fiancé David, a bluegrass musician.

She remains very close to her two daughters, one of whom is married and pursuing a degree in early childhood education and the other who has a passion for creative writing as well. She currently resides in Eldersburg, Maryland with her fiancé and their senior citizen cat, Max.

Tina is an avid reader of what she wants to write—women’s mainstream literature. She is working on her second novel, and planning her October wedding to her best friend, David.

One of her most treasured material items is the hard copy of Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True, which he autographed to her during a speaking engagement in 2014. The inscription reads, “All the best to a fellow scribe. Enjoy the journey.” Placing in the top ten in her first flash fiction contest has bolstered her confidence—she is taking Mr. Lamb’s advice.

If her name sounds familiar it's because Tina also placed in the Fall 2017 WOW! Flash Fiction Contest! Read Tina's latest award-winning story, Because I Had No Shoes, and then return here to learn more about the writer.

WOW: Welcome, Tina, and congratulations once again! "Because I Had No Shoes" is such a unique and heartwarming story. Where did you first get the idea to write this?

Tina: My mother was quite the quoter of clichés and old adages, one of which was “I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.” If you Google the origins of that saying, you’ll come up with a dozen different sources, so I honestly have no idea of its origin. But for me, it was my mother’s way of reminding us never to feel sorry for ourselves. I thought of this saying in conjunction with some women’s adoration for shoes (my own daughters fall into that category). The two ideas together morphed into a story of a young woman’s resilience to adversity. It wasn’t until I was midway that I realized I wanted to portray it from the father’s viewpoint, as I can identify myself more as a parent than I can a “girly girl” like the one in the story.

WOW: I love the way it turned out. Glad you listened to your instincts! You self-published your first novel "Dreams of Mother" a few years ago. What advice would you other writers looking to self-publish their own work?

Tina: Definitely do your research. And most importantly, don’t rush because you are excited to get your work out. I read long ago that if you are going to be a successful writer, there is one writer you can never get tired of reading: yourself. Edit, re-edit. Let it sit for a while and re-read again. Ask others to read and give feedback. There are no successful first or second drafts.

WOW: That's for sure! If you could describe your writing journey in five words, what would those be?

Tina: Dreams have no expiration date.

WOW: Very wise, and something we should all tack up on our mirrors to remind us every day. Moving forward, what is a bucket list item on your writing list and how will you achieve it?

Tina: My ultimate goal is to have a novel published with some relative success. I stopped writing for several years, and when I picked it back up a few years ago, I had to “regroup” – decide that I couldn’t just jump into being a novelist. I started with an on-line writing group, tried my hand at flash fiction. I have since joined a real-time writing group. I am currently working on short stories. This way, my skills can grow with the length of fiction I’m working on. I also try to set weekly goals as to how much time I want to dedicate to writing.

WOW: As you've been working on juggling a full-time job with a budding writing career, your writing time is precious. Have you ever had to walk away from a story or character that just wasn't working? What was that like?

Tina: I’ve had to do that several times. It makes me feel briefly like I’m failing myself or even the characters. There are some stories that have sat unfinished for a long while, but I do keep them and revisit to see if a new direction pops up later. (The short I’m working on now is just such an incident). In the end, though, I feel like abandoning a story that just isn’t working is the smartest thing to do. It frees up time for ideas that flow more easily or make me more excited to write. Challenging myself with prompts or contests is healthy for my writing, but at some point, it just wastes precious time.

WOW: Tina, thank you so much for chatting with us today, and for all your sound words of wisdom and encouragement. Happy writing, and I'm sure we'll see more of you in the future!
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'Till the Cows Come Home

Monday, July 16, 2018
Growing up, my parents would say things like "that girl won't quit talking 'til the cows come home" or "she's a slow learner - those cows will be home before her knees are healed" and so much as I'd like to think they were talking about someone else, I'm an only child. An only child who never stopped talking, dreaming, climbing trees, and playing football. I can't say I've done much tree climbing or football as of late, but the talking and dreaming has served me well. However, let's go back to that colloquial phrase: 'Till the Cows Come Home. It'm not quite sure of the exact origin of the phrase, and some say claim John Fletcher's 1616 The Scornful Lady, I the here and now, I live on a dairy farm and our cows come to the barn twice a day to be milked, so I found myself perplexed since I thought the cows coming home was similar to pigs flying. Apparently in the Scottish Highlands, the cattle (they aren't actually cows, but steers) spend months grazing on the common grass until autumn when they come home to feed. All in all, it just means: for a very long time.

Now that we've completely over thought that entire thing, let's move onto the point. Here's where I say something completely profound:


No matter how little you believe in yourself or how many naysayers there are, if it's in your heart to write, you just keep writing 'til those cows come home - then write some more! Use your journal, use social media, use your blog, start your novel, submit to those contests, etc... Just keep writing. I started writing as a child. A group of us put together a newspaper just for our block. We drew pictures, wrote short stories, jotted down poems, and made copies for our subscribers (who were mainly our own parents). I took great pride in writing essays and articles during school and university, and then as a professional I wrote training manuals and marketing materials. I never would have dreamed I'd be here - working on a book, writing blog posts, helping promote authors, etc...but those cows aren't home yet, so I'm just going to keep writing!

Now, back to you. How are you doing on your writing? I want to encourage you to keep writing, and if you don't have anything lengthy enough for a novel just yet, how about submitting to one of our dynamite contests? Write something short, submit it, get some feedback, win some prizes, get some encouragement from others! Sounds like a great idea all the way around!

What are you working on? What are your writing goals? Can you commit to writing 'til the cows come home?

While you ponder those questions - check out the winners of our recent Essay Contest! 

Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, five young children (Carmen 11, Andre 10, Breccan 4, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!
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Interview with Ashley Memory, Essay Contest Runner Up

Sunday, July 15, 2018
WOW! recently announced the winners of our   Essay Contest and we are proud to announce Ashley Memory from Asheboro, North Carolina  as one of the runners up with I know What She's Thinking. 

About Ashley:

When she’s not marveling at the antics of the lizards on her apricot tree, Ashley Memory is either making raspberry jam or writing poetry, essays, or fiction. While she does occasionally pinch a juicy magazine from a waiting room, she returns them eventually and frequently donates her own.

Ashley is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a two-time winner of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize sponsored by the N.C. Writer’s Network. Her first novel, Naked and Hungry, was named a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Fellowship Competition and was published by Ingalls Publishing Group in 2011. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Thomas Wolfe Review, Wildlife in North Carolina, Romantic Homes, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and most recently in The Gyroscope Review, The Hardball Times, and The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory. Her story “Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed into People,” earned honorable mention in the WOW Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest.

Since taking early retirement from her marketing job with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she is a part-time instructor for Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C.

For more information, please follow Ashley on her blog.

----------interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW:  It's such a pleasure to have you here today Ashley- thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and chat! I enjoyed your essay as well as the opportunity to learn more about you. 

I understand you are now retired (but still working part time) – so I have to ask: how do you juggle a busy career and your passion and love of writing? What advice do you give others who may struggle with time management?

Ashley: My husband Johnpaul and I are actually building our house – literally, from driving the nails to doing the wiring – so I’m busy in quite another way these days. Oddly, I find the act of doing something like pushing a wheelbarrow to be compatible with writing. In fact, I’ve worked out several plot lines while engaged in physical labor. It occupies my active mind so my unconscious mind is free to do its magic.

Being retired from a paying job, I know that other people are far busier than I am! If, however, I have any advice to offer, I would encourage other writers to take advantage of the brief kind of moments everybody has. Instead of waiting for a large chunk of time to suddenly appear, use the time in the doctor’s waiting room or the five minutes in a staff meeting where you’re waiting for your boss to show up, to jot down a new metaphor or a snippet of random conversation. It will pay off later! If my co-workers ever peeked inside the folder I carried around with me to meetings, I think they’d be surprised at what they found.

WOW: How exciting and what a great opportunity for you and your husband - it's like the ultimate team building experience!

Tell us about Naked and Hungry – since it was your first novel, may I ask what you wish you had done differently? What did you do that you absolutely would NOT change when it comes to publishing?

Ashley: It was very exciting when one of the 18 publishers I sent the manuscript to accepted it for publication. The company was very small but they did have a whip-smart editor who helped me tremendously during the final revisions. However, because it was a small press, I agreed to handle much of the promotion myself. This work, while working full-time and launching a cooking website, nearly killed me. It was my own fault but what was I thinking?

Because the book was written from a male point of view and inspired by my father, we ended up spending a lot of time together. I could not have written it without his encouragement and guidance, and the time we spent together was very special to me. I wouldn’t give up that for the world. Also, although Naked and Hungry had a primary point of view, I made the decision to include a few chapters from the mindset of minor characters. This work, while challenging at times, proved invaluable when it came to weaving together the strings of an intricate plot. The work of a writer is ultimately solitary, but surrounded by all those quirky characters, I never felt lonely.

WOW: Sounds like an enlightening process and I have a feeling there will be more to come?  What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2018 and beyond?

Ashley: Be the best writer I can be. It’s as simple as that. If I continue to strengthen my writing, I’m betting that project goals – whether it’s to write an essay, poem, short story, whatever – will sort themselves out. I consider myself a perpetual student of life and need to learn in order to continue to grow. So this year, I’ll be continuing to read the best work out there (new authors as well as re-reading the classics) and to take classes. I’m actually taking a WOW! nonfiction class led by Chelsey Clammer right now and loving it.

WOW: There will be no moss growing as you may be retired, yet you are quite the rolling stone. I enjoyed your bio and have to say: I am also very interested in cooking/baking and making all things delicious, so please tell us how you came to make your own raspberry jam and share your recipe if you are willing?

Ashley: One of the reasons I married my husband is because he asked: “Have you ever wanted to make jam?” Yes and yes! Yes to jam and yes, months later, when he asked me to marry him. I have always loved cooking and fresh fruit so it was a natural fit. Raspberry jam is one of the easiest and most delicious jams to make.

Add two cups of sugar to about 4 cups of fresh raspberries with the juice of one lemon in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and skim off any foam that collects around the edges of the pan. Let it boil for about 5 more minutes. Next, drop a dollop on a frozen saucer and see if the mixture gels. If it does, you’re ready to ladle the mixture into your canning jars and seal them according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions. If not, let it continue to cook for a few more minutes. Quick hint: If you’re going to use the jam right away, or within the next three months, you can just store it in your refrigerator in a plain jar, no processing necessary. Also, because I love the fresh flavor of the fruit, I try not to cook it for longer than necessary, knowing that the thickness of the jam will sometimes vary.

What’s great about having homemade jam on hand is that you can use it for things other than spreading it on toast. Try filling your Danishes with it, spreading it on a layer cake, or sandwich it in between butter cookies. Yum.

WOW: Sounds fabulous and I can't wait to give your recipe a whirl!

Was it difficult coming up with a title for your essay? How did I Know What She’s Thinking come about?

Ashley: I shared this essay with my friend Ruth first and I’ll never forget what she said: “Sometimes, Ashley, life just gives you these little gifts.” And the crazy experience that inspired that essay was just one of those gifts. As for the title, it came from the character’s own mouth. I didn’t have to do any work for that at all. But the truth is that we don’t really have to wait for an extraordinary experience. They happen to us every day. We just have to be willing to stop, look and listen.

Thank you for this delightful interview (and delicious recipe) and congratulations again as one of the runners up in the WOW! Women on Writing Essay Contest!

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